By: Adem Berhan
July 12, 2004
Maintaining peace is supposed to be effortless and inexpensive. But, various UN-led missions for peace have proven otherwise. One area in which the United Nations peace mission has been involved is along the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia. This mission, which was put in place in the early part of 2001, has so far cost the world body close to ONE BILLION dollars at a rate of 200 million dollar per year. Without an urgent and aggressive intervention on the part of the world body the cost will certainly continue to soar. This is just cost associated with the UN only. It does not include the immeasurable costs associated with the pain, suffering, disability and displacement caused to the people of both countres as a result of the war. The question to follow naturally is: what must be done to end the mission successfully and quickly?
The answer simply and basically is that the UN must act right and now. It must do what is legally and morally right. The UN's response to the Ethiopian government's deliberate and express breach of the peace agreement has so far been too weak. This must definitely change.
It is to recalled that the Border Commission had already issued its delimitation decision and was about to complete the demarcation of the border last year when the Ethiopian government through its Prime Minister Meles Zenawi informed the UN of its anticipatory breach. Instead of imposing sanctions or taking strong measures to expedite the demarcation the UN has resigned into meaningless means and retorts.
Moreover, the security council has automatically been granting extensions to the mission every six months without hard questions being asked or demands for tangible results being made. Why is the UN allowing a mission that was certainly posed and predicted to succeed to suddenly decline to the point of being ineffective? Why is the UN not compelling the breaching party to comply? Why does Eritrea, the complaisant party, have to suffer instead of being redressed? Why is the victim of aggression (Eritrea) being asked to "dialogue" with the perpetrator of the aggression which has shown no remorse for its act, not been rehabilitated and is in fact threatening more aggression? Why?
We were hoping that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's recent visit to the area would provide the necessary push into the right direction. But, it seems that all we got from him was the usual diplomatic jargon that does not right the wrong or offer hope that the so-called stalemate would end soon. As far as we know there is no "stalemate." What we have is simply a situation in which one party, the Ethiopian government, has breached an international agreement and the other party, Eritrea, is seeking justice to be served. In the interest of peace and stability the UN ought to provide leadership in acting firmly and urgently. The UNMEE is a mission upon which our collective hopes have been pinned. These hopes would be kept alive only by striving wholeheartedly for the mission's success.

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